Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
How does physical activity figure into living a longer life? What are some of the best exercises to ensure a longer, healthier, more active life?
A: There are several aspects about physical activity that play a role in a longer and healthier life. Movement is essential for proper metabolism and energy circulation. Our cardiovascular and lymphatic circulatory systems rely on movement to help with circulation of blood and extra cellular waste transport.
Movement of muscles, joints, and tendons promote renewal and circulation as well as extending range of motion to prevent arthritic build-up and stagnation. Moderate load-bearing exercises are essential for bone density and tensile strength, and this is especially important as we age. Cardio-stimulating exercises, the activities that increase the heart rate, provide stimulus for the cardiac muscles to maintain proper rigor and endurance. Exercise also helps to utilize excess energy to prevent it from getting stored as body fat.
In general, exercise for longevity has three elements:
1. Circulatory exercises are important for maintaining proper metabolism and assisting in circulation. Circulatory exercises usually utilize large muscle groups and can include walking, light jogging, elliptical machines, and lap swimming. The goal is to increase the heart rate to facilitate cardiac muscle and circulatory endurance building, as well as vascular health. A good example of this form of exercise is a 10-minute brisk walk half an hour after each meal.
2. Range of motion and flexibility exercises are important to maintain good joint and tendon flexibility. These exercises include stretching, yoga, tai chi, and qigong exercises. Some specific good examples of this exercise form is Hatha yoga or the “Eight Treasures” qigong exercises, practiced twenty minutes, three times per day.
3. Breath and inner peace exercises are somewhat new to the western approach to health; however, ancient wisdom has always understood the importance of mind, body, and spirit; it prescribes these peaceful exercises as an essential component of healthy mind and spirit. These exercises are primarily meditative, slow, and methodical in motion and rely heavily on energy manipulation through tai chi or qigong exercises. Some good examples of these exercises include “Dao In” meditation in the mornings, “Eight Treasures” or “Harmony Style” tai chi, practiced twenty minutes, three times per day.
You may try supplementing physical exercise with the “Muscle Strength”, “Five Elements of Health“, and “High Performance” herbal formulas by Traditions of Tao. Of course, discuss with your physician before beginning any new health regime.